By Brian Henry
When we lost our daughter Caroline, we gained a world of perspective we never wanted.
Most people lead a life blissfully ignorant of pregnancy loss. Many of our friends and family had no idea what it was like to suffer this type of loss, so it stood to reason that they also had no idea how to react when it entered their lives.
Forgiving the ignorance of others isn't exactly the first thing you do after a loss.
In the days following Caroline's stillbirth, we expected everyone would understand right away what we needed - gentle words, limitless understanding, the ability to listen for hours on end as we cried our way through another difficult evening - and further, that they would instantaneously and successfully deliver the support we needed.
When those expectations weren't met, we were disappointed and angry. Everyone we came in contact with was summarily labeled according to their level of support - there were the rarified few that made it into the "very helpful" category, a few more that were "somewhat helpful" and then the majority who fell into the abyss known as "wow, couldn’t have been less helpful, let's never call that person again."
Only in the years since our loss have we realized our expectations didn’t match reality. We failed to understand what is possible emotionally from people who haven’t had a loss, which made it more difficult for our recovery.
We should expect basic human reactions – "I'm sorry." "How sad." "I'm here to help." - but we found ourselves demanding even more. Only now, after suffering our own loss, meeting others who have suffered losses and educating our friends and family about pregnancy loss, do we truly understand, and forgive.
Forgiveness is a big word for us. We don't ask for it from each other very often, even though we should. And we don't give it out a lot to others, because we feel obligated to hold onto our angry feelings, take every slight, file it in our brain and recall it at a moment's notice.
We felt that if we did forgive, it would allow hurtful words or lack of support - unintentional though it may have been - to shape our view of ourselves and of our loss.
As we went along our own journey of recovery, we came to understand that forgiving people around us for not meeting our expectations (and forgiving ourselves for having those expectations in the first place), actually helped us to better appreciate what our friends and family could, and did, give to us.
It's a lesson we didn’t want to learn, but now that we have, we hope we’re better at forgiving those closest to us and helping others understand how they can better support families who have suffered such a devastating loss.
In what ways have you used forgiveness after your loss?